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Home > News > June 2007 > 13 June 2007

Beating office politics is key to successful leadership, says study

Leaders place career transitions - the point at which leaders are promoted from one level to the next - second only to dealing with divorce when considering different life events. 59% of leaders rate career transitions as very or extremely challenging according to the research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and Development Dimensions International (DDI).

The research found that office politics is one of the main challenges facing these leaders with almost half of the top level leaders stating that they feel unable to address it within their organisation and around a quarter saying it is the toughest challenge to overcome.

Vanessa Robinson, CIPD's organisation and resourcing adviser said: "Leaders should encourage frequent, consistent and clear communications to eliminate any ambiguity, uncertainty and politics. Otherwise senior teams risk being riven by disagreement and shifting alliances, and operating in a way which rewards political manipulation.

"A leader does not operate in isolation. Support from colleagues and the organisation are essential if a leader is to be successful. Our research shows that coaches and external advisors play the most significant role in leadership transitions with 43 % of senior level leaders citing their contribution.

"We wouldn't expect people to take on an unfamiliar technical role without the appropriate training and support. Yet all too often we're happy to let people loose on important leadership roles without helping them to develop the necessary skills.

"Providing training and equipping leaders with the right resources and development tools are essential. Leaders need to understand that their new role requires different ways of thinking and a 'mental shift'."

Simon Mitchell, director, DDI, said: "The research demonstrates that leaders need much more than congratulations and a pat on the shoulder if they are to succeed and thrive.

"Organisations need leaders that make a difference. People are promoted in order to succeed, not to fail but it seems that many leaders that succeed do so despite a lack of effective support from their companies.

"Simple things like helping newly promoted leaders anticipate what they need to do differently would make a huge difference to the effectiveness of those in transition."

According to the research:

* 43% of senior level leaders said that external advisors, mentors or coaches play the most significant role in successful career transitions

* 79% of strategic leaders recognise that formal training plays an important part in leaders' success

* 47% of leaders regard the respect of their colleagues as being one of the greatest rewards of promotion

* One in three leaders says that their company provides little or very poor support to them in making the mental shift required for each new transition.

* Twice the number of 45-54 year olds compared to the under 35s agree that substantial support is needed for the mental shift associated with each leadership transition

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The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

Development Dimensions International

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